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Journalist attacked

(MISA/IFEX) - On 22 December 2009, Fredrick Katulanda (32), a Mwananchi Communications Ltd. journalist in the Mwanza region, was attacked by unidentified individuals who are thought to have been gangsters.

According to "The Citizen" newspaper, which is published by Mwananchi Communications, the incident occurred just after midnight when five unidentified people broke into the journalist's home in Buhongwa Nyamatala, on the outskirts of Mwanza city, and demanded that he hand over a document he had received from a source on the evening of 21 December.

According to the newspaper, Katulanda had been investigating a story on funds that had been stolen from a government institution's account held at a commercial bank in the city. In the course of his investigation, Katulanda managed to obtain a bank statement at around 7:00 p.m. on 21 December.

He was reported to have been asleep at around 11:00 p.m. on 21 December when his neighbours knocked on his door asking him to join them in a night patrol on the grounds that a crime was about to be committed in the area. Katulanda, however, declined, explaining that he was on malaria medication. He and his brother, Tulusubya Katulanda (46), went back to sleep until around 12:30 a.m. on 22 December, when they heard a group of people forcing their way into their house.

One of the gangsters armed with a machete, an axe and an iron bar hit Katulanda's brother, who was asleep, but the journalist confronted him by grabbing an axe from another person. Another gangster then hacked him on the right hand, and another hit him on the legs with an axe.

The gangsters then grabbed a file laden with documents, including the bank statement, a wallet with Tsh. 9,000 (approx. US$7) and a mobile phone handset before vanishing into the night.

Katulanda was reportedly rushed to the Butimba Hospital in the district of Misungwi, where he received stitches and was discharged. The head of the Mwanza regional police, Jamal Rwambow, confirmed that the incident had taken place and said that police detectives were investigating the matter.

The actions against Katulanda do not represent a unique case in Tanzania. On 5 January 2008, "Mwanahalisi" newspaper managing editor Saed Kubenea and his colleague Ndimara Tegambwage were attacked by three unidentified machete-wielding assailants at their media outlet's office in Kinondoni, Dar es Salaam. The two were beaten and disfigured when their assailants poured acid on their faces.

On World Press Freedom Day on 3 May 2008, Ayub Rioba, the chairman of the Media Institute of Southern Africa-Tanzania Chapter, condemned the incident, saying, "The recent attack on the 'Mwanahalisi' newspaper editors who were at work in their office is just one indication that attempts by media to dig deeper into the affairs of the corrupt may be met with fatal consequences. . . There is an emerging trend, perpetuated by a few cowardly individuals, to use deadly weapons to intimidate or even silence critical media."

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